Friday, August 4, 2017

Salmon P. Chase to Charles Sumner, September 15, 1849

New Haven, Sep. 15, 1849.

My Dear Sumner: I wish I could have an opportunity to commune with you, and hear of all your doings at your Convention, and what was the spirit that animated the Free Democracy there assembled. I find no man so congenial to me as yourself; though I do not pretend to be up to your theories in all respects. I fear that this world is not to be redeemed from its ten thousand self inflicted curses so easily as we flatter ourselves at the outset of any reform enterprise, and, especially, before brought much in contact with the machinery behind the scenes, by which the movements in view are regulated.

Still shall we do nothing because we can not do best, or by directest means? I think otherwise. Let us do what our hands find to do, and by such means as we can, ever caring that they be honest so that our consciences reproach us not.

I want to see your Address. I am sure it must be worthy of you; though you labored under so many disadvantages in the composition of it. I could hardly pardon myself if I could imagine that your kind compliance with my wishes has abated anything of its force or persuasiveness.

For this is a time when we need our strongest utterances and most animating exhortations. It is the day of reaction the world over, I fear. And we must take onto ourselves the whole armor of Freedom if we would withstand the assaults of the adversary.

I am in doubt about the course of our friends in New York. On the one hand, the fact that John Van Buren, who has so fully and thoroughly committed himself with us, not only last fall but this Summer at Cleveland, advised the union inspires me with hope that he and his friends mean to bring the Democracy of New York unreservedly upon our platform, and have assured ground for believing that they can do it; on the other hand, I know so well how difficult a task it is that they have undertaken, and how easily, if adhesion to the antislavery articles of our platform be not made a test, men can creep into office and into Congress who will betray the people of the Free States as they have been betrayed over and over again, that I feel very, very uneasy about the issue. I know no better way now however than to put the best face possible on the matter, fight the battle through with the Whigs this fall, and prepare the old Liberty men and the Antislavery Whigs, and the Antislavery Democrats who constitute the life and soul of the Free Democracy, to rally anew on the Buffalo Platform, and break up the union, if the union shall be found to necessitate an abandonment or essential sacrifice of our Antislavery Positions.

Next winter will determine much. We shall know each other and how we stand and where we stand. For one I'll not budge an inch from my old positions. Nothing less than the Divorce of the General Government from slavery will satisfy me. I originated this expression in 1841 in the first Liberty Address published in Ohio, or west of the Mountains; and I mean to be faithful to its entire import. I have full confidence that at least two men in the House will stand firmly on the same ground.

But we are not to have Palfrey. At least so would it seem from the results of the last trial. Has he reconsidered his determination not to stand again? He ought not to think a moment of declining. If he adheres to that resolution, however, it does seem to me that nothing can be done half so well as to have you just move into the district, and take the nomination in his place. Every man who votes for him would vote for you, and none of that spirit of persistence in wrongdoing which is so active against him could be brought to operate against you. I do hope, if Palfrey absolutely declines, that this will be thought of him.

Please write me at Philadelphia, care of C. D. Cleveland, 3 Clinton St. and send me a weekly Republican containing the report of your Convention and anything else you may think of interest to me. I expect to be in Philadelphia, Wednesday morning, and to remain there two or three days.

Ever faithfully your friend,

SOURCE: Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 183-5

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